In a recent blog, we talked about the basics of composting. We covered the what, why and how of the process. In this article, we’d like to go a little further into detail, and discuss the role of compost accelerators.
Read on to find out what they are, how to use them, and whether they're needed.
What is a compost accelerator?
Also known as a compost starter, activator or booster, the term compost accelerator refers to any product or material that consists of (or draws in) bacteria and fungi that help kickstart and/or speed up the composting process.
You can buy these products online, but some good examples of homemade compost accelerator include comfrey or nettle tea, worm tea, urine, or even a handful of moist soil!
Usually, how they work is, they provide additional nitrogen, which helps bacteria grow and begin the decomposition process. In some examples, like when you add soil, it also provides bacteria and fungi directly, thus helping start the process. It’s a good idea to add some soil or compost accelerator to the middle and top of your pile, so the bacteria can work on your compost heap in multiple areas, instead of just where the heap touches the ground.
Using your worm bin to produce compost starter
Worm tea, like we mentioned, is good compost starter. To make this, all you need is worm castings, and a bit of water. We’ve detailed the process here, but in short, you soak the castings overnight, strain them in the morning, and your concentrated, organic liquid fertilizer is now ready to use!
To use, simply pour the worm tea onto your compost pile, and then stack on more layers. The liquid will work its way into the pile and start its magic.
Is compost accelerator necessary?
Most articles that talk about composting will mention compost accelerator, because we are all impatient. We want everything fast. Accelerators, as the name implies, accelerate or speed up the process a little bit, so composting doesn’t take the year or so that you would normally expect it to. However, if you don’t have accelerator or simply don’t feel like using it, that’s perfectly okay! Nature knows how to work its magic even without human help.
Is compost accelerator bad for the environment?
The answer is that it depends. While most accelerators are neutral, if not good for the environment, some can be bad. It’s easy to tell them apart:
- Homemade compost accelerators are best, as they have no harmful chemicals in them, and you know exactly what’s going into them
- Store-bought organic accelerators by trusted brands are okay, as they should be fairly eco-friendly, with environment-friendly ingredients and processes
- Sketchy products that come with a cheap price tag may not necessarily be a good idea. Often, products like these come in a plastic bag, which is nonbiodegradable, and therefore bad for the environment.
So, this was everything you need to know about compost starter or accelerator. They aren’t strictly necessary and you can easily make them at home. If your worms aren’t being productive, you can always use your urine – gross though it may sound – to speed up the composting process. Urine is a rich source of Nitrogen, and will give the compost pile a big boost. However, since it is nitrogen-heavy, make sure you balance it out with plenty of browns such as sawdust, wood chips, hay and cardboard!